Labour in bid to stop Theresa May 'running down the clock' on Brexit with meaningful vote deadline
Labour will this week launch a fresh bid to stop Theresa May "running down the clock" on Brexit by forcing her to hold a second meaningful vote on her deal before the end of February, Keir Starmer has said.
Number 10 has yet to put a date on the second vote after Mrs May suffered an historic Commons defeat when she first asked MPs to cast their verdict on the EU agreement.
The Prime Minister has since vowed to push European leaders for changes to the controversial backstop plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland, with the Government on Thursday expected to put forward another "neutral motion" letting MPs cast non-binding votes on alternatives to Mrs May's deal.
But - in an interview with the Sunday Times - Labour's Shadow Brexit Secretary said the party would lay its own amendment to try and force Number 10 to hold a meaningful yes-or-no vote on her agreement before the end of the month.
"We have got to put a hard stop into this running down the clock," Sir Keir said. "And that’s what we want to do this week."
The Labour frontbencher told the paper that the move was designed to stop MPs from being forced to confront an 11th-hour choice between Mrs May's deal and a no-deal Brexit - the current default option if no agreement with the EU is approved by 29 March.
"We shouldn’t be put in a position where the clock is run down and the prime minister says it’s either my deal or even worse," he said.
"That isn’t right in terms of the respect for parliament."
The move came amid signs that Mrs May will this week stop short of guaranteeing MPs a second meaningful vote before the end of the month.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, the Prime Minister will instead promise to return to the Commons with an update and fresh chance to table amendments by a new deadline of February 27.
The paper reports that Mrs May will urge MPs to give her more time for talks with EU leaders - who have so far firmly rejected demands to allow changes to the backstop.
Brexiteers fear that the backstop will leave the UK indefinitely bound to the EU's customs rules if activated, but Brussels views it as the only realistic way to guarantee that there will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if talks break down.
A Number 10 source said the Prime Minister was still pushing for "legally binding changes" to backstop - as demanded by MPs in a Commons last month - and warned against moves to "tie our hands" during that bid.
The Government could also come under further pressure this week as Labour backbencher Yvette Cooper prepares to table a second version of her amendment aimed at forcing the Government to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
The amendment was killed off last month as it failed to attract sufficient cross-party support.
But former Brexit minister Steve Baker told a WhatsApp group used by the European Research Group of eurosceptic Tories that he believed ministers could "soft whip Cooper II in the hope it passes", according to messages seen by the Sunday Telegraph.
The Observer meanwhile reports that Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson are preparing to launch a Commons bid for a second Brexit referendum - just weeks after campaigners shelved a planned amendment that would have demanded a fresh public vote.
The plan - likely to be tabled as an amendment to the EU withdrawal bill and already supported by key Tory Remainers Sarah Wollaston, Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve - will call for a public vote on Mrs May's deal if it is passed by parliament.
Voters would be given the choice of either accepting the deal or rejecting it and staying in the EU.
Mr Kyle told the paper: "The beauty of this plan is that it holds attractions for both Leavers and Remainers.
"For Leavers, if the deal is confirmed by the British people, it offers a definitive end to the withdrawal process with Brexit sealed once and for all.
"For Remainers, on the other hand, it offers the chance to make the case to stay in the EU to the public, based on facts not promises as before."